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Editor's Comments on 'The Patient’s Wife'

 , October 30, 2017

The relationship between doctor and patient is a venerated one. We take an oath to do our best by the patient, and in return our patients place an enormous amount of trust in us. But what is our duty and role to the family of the patient? And what is the most compassionate response to the trust that the patient's loved ones place in us? These questions are not always easily answered, as we see in Teresa Lee's "The Patient's Wife." Dr. Lee admits that by the time she met the patient she was caring for, he was critically ill and delirious, and it was too late to get to know him as a person. Instead, Dr. Lee only knew the patient's wife; after the patient passed away, it was the wife that was suffering, the wife who needed compassion. Through strong dialogue and well-crafted images, we learn about the gratitude the patient's wife has, and the gift she is trying to make. We also learn of the hospital's inability to accept it. The story is so compelling in part because it gets at the heart of the frustration many of us feel in the course of our clinical career: the need for compassion and grace can be frustrated by our daily routines and the bureaucratic workflow that enable hospitals to care for people in the first place.

By Stephen Raithel